It’s been a rocky few months when it comes to my mental illness. There was an intense depressive episode in June and then a string of high anxiety days that had me feeling overwhelmed by my brain. More than once, I remember thinking to myself, “I cannot live like this. This is too much.”
I didn’t say that in a suicidal way, but more in a I-need-to-figure-this-out-so-I-can-live-better way. But truthfully, I didn’t know if I had it in me to figure it out. I was trying to recover from my depressive episode while also dealing with riotous anxiety-ridden thoughts, and I didn’t know what to do or where to turn to make it all stop. I was so mentally exhausted.
And then my mom said something to me that flipped the switch: “Maybe you need to talk to your doctor about adjusting your meds.”
It was one of those moments where someone else offered the simplest suggestion to a problem, and you’re just like, “Well, yeah. Duh. Why didn’t I think of that?”
So, I made an appointment to see my doctor.
I’m always nervous to talk to my doctor about my anxiety and meds. For some reason, I worry that she’s going to think I’m lying. Or being dramatic.
That’s why I didn’t start taking anxiety meds until just recently. I just couldn’t work up my nerve to talk to my doctor. It’s hard when your illness is invisible. While I know the way I’ve been feeling isn’t normal, she doesn’t. It’s not like I can take a blood test and prove I have anxiety. Instead, I had to trust that my doctor wouldn’t be indifferent to my pain. I had to trust that I could be honest with her and she would hear me and help me come up with a solution.
Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about. My doctor listened to me, even though I stumbled over my words and couldn’t articulate all the ways my anxiety affected my life. She prescribed me a low dose of Lexapro and off I went.
Going back to the doctor to explain that the meds hadn’t been working as well as they used to was just as hard as the first time I asked for help. I was again worried that she wouldn’t hear me. Worried that she was thinking I was trying to game the system or something.
And again, my worries were unfounded because my doctor listened to me and talked to me about my options. We decided to double my dose of Lexapro.
I left the office feeling, for the first time ever, shame.
I’ve never, ever felt shame about my anxiety or needing to take medication to manage it. I understand that my brain just functions differently than those who do not experience anxiety and depression, and that the medication is necessary to balance it all out.
So, this feeling of shame was a new experience. I think it stemmed from this idea that I wasn’t getting “better.” Shouldn’t I be at the point where I could drop my dosage from 10mg to 5mg… not double it? Shouldn’t my brain be fixed by now?
Obviously, I know all of these thoughts are irrational. You don’t “fix” anxiety, you learn how to manage it. Just as you cannot “fix” a chronic illness… the same is true for anxiety.
Some people are able to figure out how to manage their anxiety without meds, and perhaps one I’ll be able to do that, but that’s not my end game. My end game is to learn how to manage my anxiety so that it doesn’t interfere with my daily life. So that it doesn’t keep me from participating in things I want to do and investing in my relationships and finishing that novel I’ve always wanted to write. And that probably means I’ll spend the rest of my life on anxiety meds. I’m A-OK with that.
The truth is, the shame of doubling my anxiety dosage disappeared after I realized how much better I feel now. I was in a really dark and miserable place for May and June and part of July. I could barely summon the energy for even the most basic tasks. Just a few weeks on this higher dosage, and I’ve found myself again. I don’t only feel more stable and in control over my emotions, but I’m actually happy. I actually feel fulfilled. I have energy again and find myself excited about life and what’s next for me.
And there’s definitely no shame in needing a higher dosage of anxiety medication to make me feel like that.